This piece is part of a larger series on Karen F. Owen’s “F**K List,” a leaked PowerPoint on her sexual activity, which she composed about her undergraduate experience at Duke University.
When Karen F. Owen created The Duke F**K List, she did so with the intent to entertain her friends, reflect on her crazy college years, and generally have a good laugh at her own expense, as well as the collective expense of her various sexual partners. Unfortunately, her “thesis” PowerPoint was leaked, and now the whole world can share in that laugh, as well as judge her for her sexual prowess.
There is a Facebook group recently created by two guys from London about the list. It may be small in members, but it is definitely not lacking in harsh judgments. It’s difficult to ignore that men are more eager to post their negative feelings about Owen’s List than women are. The men posting on the wall seem to share the same thoughts as quite a few other people: that Karen is a “whore”, she is trivializing her Duke education, and she is an embarrassment to the University and herself. Women, both in the Facebook group and in real life, seem to disagree.
Like those other women, I also disagree with those statements. In fact, judgments about Owen that begin with “she’s a whore” absolutely infuriate me. They are built upon a double-standard of our society, one that has existed for far too long without enough notice: Men with a high number of sexual partners are credited with being attractive, skilled, successful, etc., while women with an equally high number of partners are whores, slutty, and criticized accordingly. This inequality is even evident in our language; there are so many awful words used to speak poorly about women (whore, slut, skank, bitch — to name a few) and hardly any to put down a man in the same way. This alone suggests that men aren’t criticized on a sexual level while women are — a practice that isn’t only unfair, it’s archaic.
I’m all for Karen F. Owen’s F**K List. I’m an educated, liberated young woman from a prestigious all-women’s college, and I find her 40-50 PowerPoint slides bitingly funny, brutally honest, and blatantly unconcerned with gender expectations. Instead of behaving like a “lady”, Owen behaved like the bros she was sleeping with. It’s no huge stretch of the imagination to guess that the guys featured in the F**K List were sleeping with just as many, if not more, people than Owen was. Her vibrant descriptions of her encounters, complete with quotes, show that these guys were looking for exactly the same thing Owen was and they weren’t shy about going out and getting it. She doesn’t make them out to be anything other than who they really are — she even speaks about them affectionately. She is also completely honest when reflecting upon herself as well, admitting that she was insecure and susceptible to compliments and didn’t have particularly high standards at certain times.
I think my biggest issue with the criticism Karen F. Owen is receiving is that people would be saying entirely different things if a man had written the List. Tucker Max wrote a book and got a movie deal out of his sexual proclivity. Hugh Hefner has built an empire based on sex and girls that could be his daughter. Sleazy college guys everywhere are high-fiving each other for getting laid.
Where are the female equivalents of these men? What is the female equivalent of the word “womanizer”? I wish I could answer those questions, but we live in a world where female sexual conquests are best discussed behind closed doors, or, like Karen F. Owen, via e-mail. Although Owen has apologized for her List and the embarrassment it most likely created, I won’t apologize for sharing her attitude. In fact, I hope her List encourages women to be more outspoken about the great (and not so great) sex they’re having, in an effort to break down the hypocritical standards of the society we live in.